Francis seizes opportunity to snag spot in Blue Jays rotation

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BRADENTON — On the inside, Bowden Francis must have been ready to explode when he found out both of his goals heading into the 2023 have been met — to make the Blue Jays and be a part of the opening weekend rotation.

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On the outside, when Jays manager John Schneider gave the 27-year-old right hander the news, the reaction from Francis was to play it cool.

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“He was very stoic until he actually heard me say you’ve made the team and you’re in the rotation and (then) it was a really big smile,” Schneider said at LECOM Park prior to Thursday’s game against the Pirates. “But he knows there’s a lot of work to do. As with everyone, we’re just trying to put him in spots to have success.

“But him knowing he’s going to on a regular turn is pretty cool. I think his words were ‘I’ve heard everything I need to hear.’ He was thrilled.”

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And with his off-season work having paid off, Francis has been one of the best stories of camp. With Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah slowed by injuries this spring, the team needed someone to jump up and grab a rotation spot and Francis was the man.

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Schneider said that Francis will likely slot in behind the opening trio of Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi. Spot No. 5 is still TBD, pending in part on Kevin Gausman’s next (and final) outing of the spring, scheduled for Monday.

“He’s really driven, focused and understand what he needs to do to put himself in a position to have success,” Schneider said. “A lot of it goes unnoticed by the normal person but it’s what he does every single day. He dominates his days, in terms of how he preps, how he recovers and the work in between.

“It really started in the off-season when speaking with him (making the team) that was his goal. That’s what he wanted to do and the results have been great.”

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